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Safeway UK Trade Tasting

by Tom Cannavan, 07/01

This was a trade tasting of all the newest lines/vintages available in Safeway Supermarket, one of the UK's big players. Safeway have branches across the UK, and also new e-commerce site at safewaywinesdirect.co.uk. Some of these wines will also be available in other retailers both in the UK and abroad. Not all of Safeway's 428 stores carry all wines, so at the end of each TN is the number of stores that carry that particular wine.

Champagne

Alfred Etienne Brut Vintage 1995 £16.99
Made for Safeway by Lanson, this is nice stuff with a richly foaming mousse that is persistent. Fresh nose, with leesy element leads on to a broad, expansive mouse and nutty, biscuity fruit with a nutty, toffeed complexity. Decent length and balance. Very good (all stores).

Whites

Riverview (Hungary) Sauvignon Blanc 2000 £4.29
Lovely fresh, aromatic nose with tropical fruit tinged with gooseberry. Very nice fruit quality on the palate which is punchy and zesty with lime and peach, and expansive acidity that still gives balance. Very good (220 stores).

Riverview (Hungary) Gewürztraminer 2000 £4.29
Good varietal nose with a definite spice, Nivea cream and fresh, bursting lychee. Quite a dry, medium-rich palate with moderate weight and a nice feeling of restraint. Plenty of juicy fruit and good acidity. Very good (150 stores).

Riverview (Hungary) Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio 2000 £3.79
Less aromatically intense than previous two wines. Rather non-descript really. Some pleasant pear and apple fruit, perhaps a light peachiness. Acid is balanced and this sips well, but is a bit dull (400 stores).

Safeway Irsai Oliver (Hungary) 2000 £2.99
Irsai Oliver used to be a real summer standby of mine many, many years ago. This has a beautifully clean and perfumed nose that reminds me just why I used to love it. Fragrant, with lots of floral character, some sweet, exotic spices and a rich, toothsome fudge quality. The palate is clean and balanced with some citrus fruit and fine acidity. The palate could never live up to that nose at £2.99, but a lovely drop at the price (400 stores).

Karolyi (Hungary) Private Reserve 2000 £4.49
Actually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and the Hungarian Cserzeki and Leányka. Powerful, pungent nose with loads of nettle, leafy gooseberry herbs and citrus. There are nutty undertones too. Gooseberry fruit on the palate which is medium-bodied. Plenty of crunchy, crisp fruit and power too with spicy notes emerging in a long finish. Very good indeed (320 stores).

Langenbach (Germany) St Johanner Spätlese 2000 £3.99
Made by Kendermann, this is 70% Bacchus, 20% Ortega and 10% Kerner. Rather neutral nose that is vaguely peachy. Palate is off-dry with a juicy, soft, ripe fruitiness and just enough acidity. Quite good (320 stores).

Mertes (Germany) Classic Medium Riesling 1999 £3.49
Quite herbaceous, a touch of sulphur. Palate has a leesy, oatmealy quality with not much identifiable fruit. Not racy enough, with some citrus acidity but seems very unfocussed (all stores).

Inycon (Italy) Chardonnay 2000 £4.99
The 1999 was a wine-pages "Wine of the Week". Fresh, peachy, lightly buttery nose, fine fruit and a nutty, ground almond edge. Very clean. Medium-bodied palate is crisp and cool with lemon fruit, notes of riper apple and pear before refreshing citrus acidity dominates the finish. Very good (225 stores).

I've re-tasted this wine since and thought a marginally astringent finish let it down slightly. Still a lovely nose and good wine, but maybe best with food.

Ackerman-Laurance (France) Touraine Sauvignon 2000 £3.99
Powerful, leafy gooseberry and herbal fruit. Lots of fruit on the palate and quite big for a Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, finishing with pithy orange and grapefruit acidity. Good (150 stores).

Trois Terroirs (France) Sauvignon Cuvée Reserve 2000 £3.99
A Vin de Pays d'Oc with lots of ultra-modern, cool-ferment zest and confectionery sweetness on the nose, a hint of ripe tropical fruit. Palate has more of the same with zippy fruit and tangy acidity into a pure finish. Very good (320 stores).

Henri Bourgeois (France) Sancerre "Bonnes Bouches" 2000 £8.99
Quite closed, but classy stuff with gentle, racy mineral tinged citrus fruit. Plenty of ripeness on the palate and a good weight of ripe fruit and fine length with a zingy, pure finish. Very good. (250 stores).

Safeway Pouilly-Fuissé (France) 1998 £9.99
Made for Safeway by Domaine Carrette, has an attractive nose of nutty, leesy, toffee-fudge oak and a buttery weight of ripe fruit. The palate is more lemony and fresh than the nose suggests, long and tight with a mineral structure and good weight. Very good indeed (354 stores).

Domaine de Ciffré (France) Viognier 2000 £6.99
Another Vin de Pays d'Oc Viognier (so many of them around at the moment) this has a wonderfully creamy character to sweet apricot fruit with suggestions of mint-humbugs and pear. The palate is lush - almost oily - with a delicious weight of rich fruit and moderate acidity. Stylish and long, this is very good indeed (30 stores).

Safeway Alsace Gewürztraminer (France) 2000 £5.99
Made by the very reliable co-op at Turckheim, this has a pungently leafy nose with punchy fruit. The palate has lots of residual sugar, making it full and rich, and just of-dry. Good (all stores).

Alkoomi (Australia) Riesling 2000 £7.99
Nicely pure, crunchy and brightly-fruited Riesling with lots of peach and lime zest aromas. The weighty palate has rich fruit that is zesty and full-flavoured, with orange and grapefruit acidity though staying rich and full into the finish. Very good (30 stores).

Leasingham (Australia) Bin 7 Riesling 2000 £6.99
A Clare Valley Riesling with a much more mineral, lime and slate nose. Quite Old World (Alsace) in a way with cool, crisp fruit and floral nuances. Maybe lacks a little of the overt ripeness that makes much Clare Valley Riesling so tantalising, but it is terrifically juicy and mouth-watering with taut acidity and good length. Very good (80 stores).

Grove Mill (New Zealand) Riesling 2000 £7.99
From Marlborough, this has a very cool, classy, mineral nose. Quite sherbetty. Good weight of fruit on the palate; more of that orange and sherbet-lemon fruit and a pleasant touch of residual sugar sweetness into a long, refined finish. Very good (150 stores).

Villa Maria (New Zealand) Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2000 £9.99
Another Marlborough wine, this cuvée sees 10% new French oak. It has a massive, prickly, gooseberry and quince-fruited nose that is powerful and attention-grabbing. Rich, full mouthful of fruit, that explosive quality carries through with lots of ripe mango, peach, nectarine and a fine grapefruity acidity into the finish. Very good indeed (80 stores).

Endeavour (Australia) Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay 1999 £7.99
The nose is honeyed, toasty, rich, full and peachy. Very ripe. Good balance on the palate and plenty of breadth with weighty, generous light peach and apple fruit and a big bolstering effect of leesiness and oak on the finish. Big, impressive, very good of its style (150 stores).

Lawsons Dry Hills (New Zealand) Chardonnay 1999 £7.99
Fine nose; slightly more restrained with peachy, round, fresh fruit and a lighter toasting of creamy oak. Really good quality of expressive, juicy fruit on the palate with good balance and fine length. Very classy indeed. Excellent (80 stores).

Wakefield (Australia) St Andrews Chardonnay 1998
Clare Valley Chardonnay given full Burgundian treatment. Very classy nose. Subdued vanillin notes, toast, nutmeg and very refined fruit. Lovely quality here; really gorgeous ripe and pure fruit, but then a certain heat in the finish as thumping alcohol takes a grip. This could become tiring as the alcohol is massive in the finish (14.5%). Very good if you like the style (150 stores).

Reds

Les Chevaliers (France) Bourgueil 2000 £4.99
From the local Cave cooperative, this has an attractively ripe, sweet, cream and red berry nose, with strawberry nuances. Ripe, fresh fruit on the palate, bright cherry flavours and some creamy blackberry. Crisp acidity and maybe a little short, but a nice example of its style. Good (400 stores).

Safeway Beaune (France) 1998 £9.99
Famous Burgundy village wine, this one from négociant Cottin Frères. Nicely expressive earth and damp woodland nose, some berry fruit. a little astringency on the palate, perhaps a touchy stalky and lacking proper Pinot mouthfeel. Not my cup of tea (274 stores).

Domaine la Tour du Maréchal (France) Merlot 2000 £4.99
Organic wine; a Vin de Pays de l'Hérault. This has a deep, blue/black fruited nose that is dense yet sweet. The palate too is dense, with a dusty quality of ripe black fruit and slightly harsh tannins, though good length. Good (350 stores).

Château Villespassans (France) St-Chinian 2000 £4.99 (in stores late June)
Wonderfully vibrant colour in this 90% Syrah/10% Grenache wine. Dusty, dense black fruits on the nose with notes of charcoal. Huge tannins grip the palate. The black fruit struggles beneath rather inky extraction. For me, a bit unbalanced (320 stores).

Château Salitis (France) Cabardès 1998 £5.49 (in stores late June)
I was quite impressed by several wines from this, a brand new appellation, when I tasted them in France a year or two back. It is a blend of traditional Rhone and Bordeaux grapes. It is sweetly perfumed and slightly gamy on the nose, with little notes of leather and sweet, damp earth before some creamy, toffeed nuances. Palate has decent fruit that is ripe and quite chewy, with decent balance. Good/Very good (160 stores).

Domaine des Lauriers (France) Faugères 1998 £5.99
Super-sweet, bubblegummy nose of carbonically macerated fruit; loads of raspberry and blackberry. Unexpectedly big tannins (the vinification was part carbonic, part traditional, followed by oak ageing) that dry the mouth. The fruit is of good, deep quality though and this has savoury appeal and a nice finish. Very good (160 stores).

Moulin de Ciffré (France) Faugères 1999 £6.99
Savoury and juicy fruit on the nose, hints of charcoal and toasty oak, with juicy cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Quite a serious palate with spicy flavours and good fruit. Balanced, this has a long finish. Very good (150 stores).

Château Teyssier (France) Montagne St-Emilion 1998 £8.99
A very good 'right bank' year and this displays a nice cedary quality with spicy blackcurrant fruit to the fore. Plenty of vanillin oak influences, but not overpowering. Nicely balanced palate with moderate fruit, sufficient tannins and a little structure. Very good (150 stores).

Château La Rose Brisson (France) St-Emilion Grand Cru 1999 £11.99
Lots of charry, coffee-ground oak over plum and blackcurrant fruit. Very savoury, with deep spicy notes and hints of chocolate. Quite rich and full on the palate, with moderate tannins drying the mouth at present and nice balance into a good finish. Very good (80 stores).

Château d'Agassac (France) Haut-Médoc 1998 £10.99
A Cru Bourgeois that sits opposite La Lagune, and which I've liked in the past, this has expensive, toasty, charry oak on the nose at first with notes of coffee-beans and tobacco. The fruit is sweet and concentrated on the palate. Plenty of powerful black fruit is the driving force, but there's decent structure with good tannins and a nice, focused length. Very good (80 stores).

Bodegas Siglo (Spain) Rioja 1999 - £4.99
Medium density ruby, quite thin at rim. Aromatic, spicy nose with suggestions of vanilla and modest berry fruit. On the palate light to medium-bodied, but with quite a creamy texture. There's a nice sour cherry fruit, and a hint of bracken, leafy undergrowth as well as more mellow spiciness. A modest wine, but it is savoury, very food-friendly and well balanced (221 stores).

Marqués de Murrieta (Spain) Rioja Reserva 1997 - £9.99
Two years in American oak barrels plus further two in bottle have imbued this wine with a spicy, deep, game and tobacco-scented nose that displays plenty of rich strawberry fruit. On the palate there's a ground coffee flavour and bittersweet quality over savoury, meaty cherry and autumnal berry fruit. At the moment the tannins and acidity present a slightly astringent, overpowering buffer on the finish, but this has classy fruit and should come round very nicely over the next few years (221 stores).

Marqués de Riscal (Spain) Rioja Gran Reserva 1994 - £17.99
Sweet, soft, fudgey nose with creamy oak, caramel and sweet berry fruit, little hints of game. Palate displays a rich, dark tobacco and woodsmoke warmth, but there are layers of sweet black fruit that is juicy and supple. Very fine tannins and fresh acidity give a classy balance into a long finish. Very good indeed (123 stores).

Valdevieso (Chile) Malbec 2000 £4.99
Big, dry, dusty blue/black fruit on the nose. Really rich and dark, almost an Indian ink quality. Good fruit in the mouth, with lots of berries and chocolate, some cherry notes. Lacks a little acidity perhaps, but delicious and very good (320 stores).

Valdevieso (Chile) Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 1998 £9.99
Beautifully sweet nose, filled with lush aromas from ripe fruit, but also spicy oak. A really serious, deep, muscular quality to the fruit on the palate, but incredible ripeness makes it very approachable before big, bruising tannins bite. Very good indeed (150 stores).

Casa Lapostolle (Chile) Merlot Cuvée Alexandre 1999 £9.99
Velvet-gloved, plummy, chocolaty fruit of the nose of huge density, with suggestions of sweet, focussed blackcurrant. Lovely palate that is full-bodied and softly textured, suffused with rich dark fruit and bittersweet dark chocolate and plum. Good tannin and acid structure. Excellent (120 stores).

Montana (New Zealand) Pinot Noir Reserve 1999 £9.99
Marlborough fruit and maturation in French oak barrels gives a classy, moderate nose without too much jamminess, with charry oak layered over raspberry and cherry. Nice texture on the palate, this is silky though rather tight. A sophisticated Pinot at the price and very good (80 stores).

Villa Maria (New Zealand) Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 1999 £13.99
From Hawkes Bay, now renowned as a Bordeaux-variety area, this has distinctive, fine, sweet black fruit beneath a layering of creamy oak, with nuances of damson and plum, edged by bitter cherry. On the palate this is broad and full, with a relatively soft fruit appeal and no greenness. Sweet, ripe tannins add some grip and this finishes really stylishly. Very good indeed (80 stores)

Haselgrove (Australia) Cabernet/Merlot 'H Series' 1998 - £18.99
This is another very big hitter, with a nose that is layered with mineral-tinged blue and black fruits and toasty oak. Wonderfully smooth and glycerine-rich palate, this has a structured feel to the fruit and tannin balance, with good acidity and a savoury depth that adds interest to sweet blackcurrant fruit. Very good indeed (30 stores).

Haselgrove (Australia) Bentwing Shiraz 1998
Taut, focussed nose of black fruits: cherry and blackcurrant with raspberry freshness and lots of pepper and spice. On the palate it is mouth-filling and expansive with moderate tannins and acidity, but enough to add an edge to heaps of sweet black fruit. Very good (150 stores).